Tuesday, December 15, 2015

So, You're Having a C-Section (Tips, Tricks, and "Expert Advice")

 Despite the title of my previous c-section post, in the case of major surgeries practice does not actually make perfect.  You may know when your c-section will happen, but you certainly can not plan for every eventuality.   I'm may not be an expert but I have had five rather un-eventful c-sections.  Well, wait a minute.  They were monumentally eventful because they were the births of my children!!!  But you know what I mean.  They were routine.  There were no hiccups, no surprises, and my recoveries were a cake walk (as compared to many difficult c-section stories I've heard about...) 

While a c-section is not usually what any expectant mother is hoping for, it may be a reality for you or someone you know.  I've done it enough times to have a few tips for you :)  My list is not exhaustive, but these are things that stand out to me:

Before You Go to the Hospital

Here's a whole post I wrote on the things I like to do before going off to have a baby.  The one I wanted to mention again here is stock up on stuff.  Stock up on all your regular household items (shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc...) because the fewer trips you have to make to the store in the next two months, the better.  One of the all-time dumbest things I ever did was drive by myself to Target the day after I got home with Dominic.  I still beat my up over how idiotic and potentially dangerous this was.  Please don't ever make this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mistake.  Stay home.  And send your husband.  Or a saint bernard.  

What to Bring to the Hospital

You may think that you can pack your hospital bags like everyone else when you're headed in for a c-section.  Not so.  Your hospital stay will be much longer and very different from other mothers, and you should plan accordingly.  You'll need to pack all the stuff on all the "normal" lists for your hospital bag (phone, camera, sanitary products, baby's first outfit, etc...)  and you should also plan on...

  • Light reading material.  You may think it's the perfect time to delve into that long philosophy book you've been waiting to read (what with all the quiet time you'll have), but the meds you'll be on won't allow for deep thoughts.  Bring a beach-read novel.  My personal recommendations are the Jane Austen mystery novels by Stephanie Baron  (Oh my gosh, they're so fun!  Read them.)
  • An iPad or other tablet or "smart" device.  In my experience, hospital TV and radio are so, so, so bad.  My last hospital stay was like a dream because I had my beloved Pandora stations and Netflix at my fingertips.  Sometimes you just can't read and you want to watch a show or two.  Or three or four ;)   (When I was in the hospital with newborn Ruth I watched 57 episodes of Cash Cab with my neck strained to see the TV strapped to the ceiling...Just bring your iPad, ok?!)  
  • Prayer Intentions.  You might think you've avoided the pains of child birth by delivering via c-section, but believe me, your body will have gone through the wringer.  You'll have pains and unpleasantness aplenty.  And you'll certainly feel some of those child birth-like uterine contractions when you start nursing that little one (actually, postpartum nursing my fourth and fifth babies was the most painful thing I've ever done.  Certainly the closest to natural child-birth I'll ever get....)  Anyway, my point is, have some special prayer intentions in mind so that you can offer up the pain and discomfort you'll experience when your anesthetic starts to wear off.  
  • Something to do.  My last two hospital stays were marked with copious amounts of crocheting.  In fact, when James was born, a visiting friend remarked that my room looked more like a yarn shop than a hospital room.  I have the dearest memories of crocheting peacefully with my sweet, new James in bed with me.  I managed to make him a handful of custom-fit hats since he was right there (!) and worked on my first crochet blanket during our hospital stay.  Having something to do is a must for me!  It will make your time in the hospital feel more like a cozy getaway instead of a week of confinement. 
  • Nursing tanks and cardigan sweaters.  You really are going to be spending much of the first two days in bed.  The nurses will be doing a lot to tend to your lower half, but that doesn't mean you have to wear a hospital gown the whole time :(  If you've got a nursing tank and a cardigan, you'll be warm on top, and ready to easily feed your baby (if you're nursing).  
  • Loose fitting pants.  Really loose fitting pants.  And loose underwear.  You may be one of those women who can mysteriously fit into pre-pregnancy pants on her way home from the hospital, but after a c-section, even if you can fit in 'em, you shouldn't wear 'em.  You'll appreciate having something very loose and stretchy to fit over your incision site.  Tight underwear is the worst.  Plan to wear loose underwear and stretchy pants in the hospital and on your way home.  Take care of that incision site, mama!
  • A soft cloth diaper.  Or something comparable.  I really want to protect my incision site for the first week or so after surgery, so I tuck a soft cloth baby diaper in the front of pants in between my skin and underwear.  This gives me a barrier between the incision and whatever elastic I may be wearing.  I know this sounds like ridiculous TMI, but it really makes all the difference in preventing your incision from being irritated.  And I'm just looking out for my fellow section moms ;)
  • THIS NECK PILLOW.  You're going to be on your back for the majority of two days, and then for a lot of time all the other days during your hospital stay.  I seriously can't tell you how wonderful this pillow was for me.  A memory foam neck pillow allows you to rest your head to the side (with enough support that you don't get a terrible crick) even when you're not able (or it's too uncomfortable) to shift your whole body to one side.  I honestly don't think people without major abdominal surgery will get why this is so important, but let me assure you it is.  I can only say over and over again, this pillow was probably the BEST "extra" thing I've ever brought to the hospital.  

What to Ask for at the Hospital

  • You can ask to hold your baby immediately after it's born.  I have never done this, but have heard that my doctor and hospital are becoming more amenable to it, so if I'm ever on the table and under the knife again (hehe), I will request this.  At the very least, you can ask to see your baby right after it's delivered.   (James, my most recent baby, was my baby that I got to see the quickest.  Maybe Clare too...)
  • Speak up for yourself.  Ask for more warm blankets if you need them (oh! I love thos hospital blankets!), ask for help moving, ask the doctors to tell you when they see your baby and how they're removing the baby, tell them you'd like your husband to cut the umbilical cord if he wants to, tell them if you want nurse your baby in the recovery room, ask to replace IV pain meds with oral ones after you're in your room (IV meds, while more convenient, tend to make your drowsier.)  In short, be your own advocate.  It is after all, still the birth of your baby that's happening.
  • Ask for anesthetics that are non-drowsy.  I have always been very alert and aware during my c-sections, but I have heard that that's not the case for everyone.  I wasn't loopy or trippy during my deliveries.  I was just pain free and present in the moment, and I'm so, so very grateful for that.  
  • Ask for more pillows.  Even though I always have my aforementioned neck pillow at my head, I always ask for additional pillows to prop behind my back and under my stomach for the times when I do start to shift and want to rest more on one side of my body than just on my back.  You can also use pillows for the first few days of nursing to protect your incision and to "boost" the baby up without straining your lower abdominal muscles.  
  • Before you are discharged, ask if they have an elastic abdominal binder to give you.  They better!  Binding your abdomen will serve two purposes - it will protect your incision site from daily activity (like toddlers crashing into you and the baby resting on you while nursing) and it will help support and hold your muscles in for quicker repair and and healing.  Also - sorry I have to mention this - ask for a stool softener prescription to go.  (You'll probably already be taking one during your stay)  After your section, you have nothing in the world left to be embarrassed about, so don't be shy about asking for this :)  Even though they won't let you leave without making sure your system is moving again, it's better to have some gentle help in this area for the first few days back at home.  Trust. me.   

A few final things...
  • Let the nurses change your baby's diaper.  You do all the cuddling and holding and singing and stroking, but leave the changing to the nursery staff (except maybe till your fourth day or so)  It's a strain on your abdomen and incision that you don't need until you get home.  Don't feel guilty about it.  And don't feel guilty about asking the nursery to bring your baby to you any time you want.  And don't feel guilty about asking them to take your baby back to the nursery when you need to sleep.  You are recovering from major surgery and should not wear yourself out before you even get home.  
  • Take your pain medication when you get home.  They won't give you anything that's harmful while nursing, so feel confident that taking your pain meds will help you take better care of your newborn and other family members.  That doesn't mean you can overextend yourself just cause you're feelin' no pain, but it does mean that you'll be able to heal more quickly and love on your newborn more because you won't be suffering unnecessarily.  

So, I've been around the c-section block a few times.  Let me know if you have any questions or if there's anything else I can share that would be helpful.  And if you've a multiple c-section mom (and I know there are a lot of your fabulous gals out there from the comments on my last post!),  please share your wisdom with us too in the comments!   I know there must be some other tips, tricks, and suggestions out there!!

Disclaimer: I've had my five surgeries, cared for sick kiddos, bandaged my share of cuts and scrapes, etc.... but I'm not a doctor.  Shocker, right?  I think there might be a responsible bloggers rule that says I have to tell you my suggestions are not medical advice and you should consult an actual physician to get actual medical information.  I just offer casual conversation mom-to-mom advice, so take or leave it ;)  

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Bonus Material :)

I love my pictures of when I spent hours and hours crocheting and cuddling with Sweet Baby James, so you get to see them <3


  1. This is super great information. Thanks for sharing. I'll be sending it to my friend whose baby is breech, just in case he doesn't turn.

    1. Saying a prayer that baby flips around like he's supposed to!

  2. Sounds like wonderfully helpful suggestions. I birthed eight babies, three breech, but none by C section so I have nothing to add. Love the photos of crocheting with James!

    1. Wow! Three breech babies!
      I did so much crocheting while James was in utero and in the hospital, I'm sort of surprised he hasn't learned by osmosis and isn't sitting next me to me working on his own projects ;)

  3. Great post! You are an expert! And yes, your hospital room was a yarn extravaganza. ;)

  4. Don't be afraid to ask for things that will add to your comfort and healing. I got stubborn and never admitted that I basically didn't sleep for 48 hours pre and post delivery (pre because of nerves and post because I couldn't get comfortable). A sleep aid is first on my list next time =)

    As long as your fit to I recommend getting up and walking as soon as you're able too.

    And take your pain meds on schedule - they take a while to kick in so don't wait to take them for when you feel pain.

    1. Amen to the walking around! I love that first "I think I'm ready to swing my legs over the side and try to make it to the bathroom on my own." :)
      Thanks for your additions, Molly <3

  5. Theresa, I didn't know you had c-sections! This is great, and I'm totally getting the neck pillow next time! I'm all about compression, it really helps me recover and feel more together afterwards. They gave me a binder at the hospital too with my first two, but next time I might invest in this thing: http://m.bellefit.com/ or at least these: http://www.amazon.com/C-Panty-Waist-Incision-C-Section-Panty/dp/B004YKZ7PA

  6. Great post! I'm a fellow 5 c-section mom and most of this rings true!

  7. My son was an emergency c-section at 29.5 weeks so I didn't exactly get enough warning to bring my yarn and hooks to the hospital. I'm glad you got to though!

  8. I had an emergency-c and was so bitter about it, i didnt remember having that much time at the hospital. I was afraid to get out of bed. When are we able to even start walking to the bathroom?

    1. I'm so sorry about your emergency section. I've never experienced that, so I'm sure I can't completely comprehend how much more difficult that must be! As for getting up and getting around, that's probably different for every patient and every hospital staff. I'd say I'm usually up to the bathroom for the first time around the 25 hour mark. It feels to good to move around!

  9. I had an emergency-c and was so bitter about it, i didnt remember having that much time at the hospital. I was afraid to get out of bed. When are we able to even start walking to the bathroom?

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